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Writer's Block: Help, I need somebody!

Do you think you would you risk your life to save a stranger? Would it make a difference if it were an elderly person or a child? What about a neighbor's dog or cat?

Usually I ignore these questions, but this one posed an interesting moral quandary at a time when I had nothing better to do, so I will attempt to answer it, though not necessarily in the order of questions posed, but rather in an order that I choose.

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Notes on the Burning Wheel

Some of you may know that I recently picked up a new roleplaying system recently. The Burning Wheel is an independently published system; there isn't a company like WotC or SJ Games behind it, but there does seem to be a somewhat active community, between the forums and wiki, and the creator is definitely involved in both.

I can't really decide what system the character creation reminds me of. Instead of picking a class like in D&D, or buying advantages and disadvantages like in GURPS, you choose lifepaths for your character. The lifepaths you choose open up skills, traits, and resources for your character, as well as determining how old your character is, so that part's a bit more structured than GURPS, plus your character comes with a built-in sketchy history.

Speaking of history, your character also gains resource points that can be spent not only on the typical gear and such but also on reputations (anything from being infamous as a cold-blooded murderer to being known as the fastest blacksmith in town or a trustworthy sergent), affiliations (want to have pull with the local assassin's guild, or with the consortium of merchants?) to relationships (resented by a half-brother, friendly with a former mentor, being hunted down by a rival or former master, carrying on an affair with his lord's wife?) And for all those more minor relationships that might come up in play, there's a special mechanic called "Circles" which allows you to determine whom your character might know and be able to find (from a grumpy swordsman to your great-aunt the abbess).

One of the things I think is especially neat is the system of beliefs and instincts, of which you may have three of each (unless you're a dwarf, but we'll get into racial stocks later). These could probably be borrowed and used alongside other systems too, or even in creative writing.

Beliefs are basically some of the core ideas in your character's head that relate to the game, and should also highlight what aspects of the world you as a player are interested in exploring with this character. The best beliefs also have a goal attached to them; what the character wants to accomplish next.

Some random examples of beliefs (not meant to all be from the same character):
- Knowledge is the best way to attack any problem. I will obtain a book that has information about the dragon we're hunting at any cost.
- One should discuss one's problems rationally. I will act as a go-between to help the miners and the kobolds discover some common ground.
- Kobolds are vicious little beasties and deserve to be destroyed. I will use my skill with the sword to help the miners eliminate this kobold menace.
- The best way to serve Pelor is to follow the orders of the Patriarch. I will seek out my brother as per the Patriarch's orders.

Instincts can be revealing of character and interests of the player as well ("If the ship is sinking, make sure all the women and children are safely aboard first." "If the ship is sinking, get onto a lifeboat by any means possible, and don't worry about anyone else.") They can also be used to record things that the player doesn't necessarily want to have to reiterate every time because he or she feels it should be second nature to the character ("When in a dungeon, always travel at the front of the party and look for traps" "When in a closely confined forest or canyon, always expect an ambush"). The second sort of instincts particularly need to be specific, in order to avoid cheating by statements that are too broad (and to keep things more interesting).

I suppose I should touch on racial stock. At the moment, I only have the two basic books, though the Monster Burner is on its way to me, which should bring more options. In the basic books, there are four options: dwarves, elves, humans, and orcs.

Dwarves are, of course, the excellent craftsfolk and miners we have grown to know and love. In addition, they are torn between rigid cultural tradition and Greed, which is its own attribute that can influence dwarvish characters.

Elves are, on the one hand, passionately interested in the world around them and its affairs. But they are also long-lived, and see much more of the larger picture than Men and Dwarves. This leads to the elvish emotional attribute, Grief, which can eventually drive them overseas to the West or into wasting away from it.

Men are, of course, the default race. Their emotional attribute, Faith, is optional, but can allow them to perform miracles. They are also the only ones with the option of being Gifted with sorcery.

Orcs lead harsh and brutal lives, which drives them to Hatred. Actually, there's a PDF with the information about Orcs available as a free sample PDF from the Burning Wheel website, if anyone is interested in finding out more about the Orcs, or seeing a sample of what the Lifepaths look like.

The basic conflict resolution system uses six-sided dice, where the attribute or skill tells you how many dice you roll, and the obstacle set tells you how many successes you need to be, well, successful. If you happen to be in conflict with another character, then it becomes about who gets more successes on the relevant skill. And then there's the more complex conflicts... in what other roleplaying system is there anything resembling a Duel of Wits, where you use approximately the same moves as in a melee or other fight, and yet have such great moves as "Obfuscate" (for those interested in mimicking politics?) and Feint, where the only weapon is words? I haven't had a chance to see how the mechanics actually play out, having just been being by myself reading the books, but it could be a fun concept to explore at some point.

Adventures in Car-less-ness

It's a strange thing... I don't mind staying at home for long stretches when I know I can leave if and when I like, but it makes me a bit restless when I know I can't leave, when I'm stuck at home, particularly when everyone else is out at work or school or running errands.

For those of you who don't happen to have me as Facebook friends, or missed my status, my car's alternator is apparently not in tip-top shape. The light had been flickering on and off for some time, so Dad had obtained a voltmeter which plugs into the car's power adaptor. If I remember correctly, it should be (and was, for a while) sitting around 12-14 volts. Last Thursday, however, it went down to about 10 volts as I was driving to my latest sub job.

Since the car seemed to still be functioning all right and it wasn't dropping any lower, I kept driving to the sub job - it wasn't that far from my house, after all, and I did need to get there. I made a note to call Dad when I got home, and let him know the light had been on more constantly and that the reading now seemed to be sitting at about 10-11 volts. Maybe it was the heat, I thought; usually the light tended to act up a bit more when it was raining, but Thursday was rather hot and humid, so I thought the problem might still be weather-related.

Driving home, I noted that the number seemed to be sitting closer to 10 than 11, and then I noticed that if I turned off things that used electricty (namely, the radio, fan, and AC), the voltage was a bit higher. Gritting my teeth, I turned off both the fan and air conditioning, getting ready for a rather hot drive, especially as I didn't dare to lower the windows - usually I loved that my windows happened to be electric and thus operable with the push of a button, but I didn't want to add any extra strain on the electrical system.

Just after I passed the last good place to turn off the road before getting home, the meter's reading changed again, going from ten to nine... eight... seven... the dashboard lights indicating problems with the brakes and ABS flickered weakly on. "Just let me get into the driveway," I half-ordered, half-pleaded. I started slowing down well before my driveway - I didn't know what would happen with the brakes when both those lights were on, but they seemed to work well enough when I took my time stopping. And then I had to wait for another car to pass before I could make the left into my driveway, but I made it, with the reading still at seven volts, and even managed to park in my normal spot. After which I first called Dad, leaving the engine running in case there was something I was supposed to do. He told me I could turn the car off and he would make an appointment with the mechanic ASAP. When I opened the door I realized just how hot and humid the car had gotten - the air which I considered to be hot and humid upon exiting the air-conditioned school now seemed practically air-conditioned itself by comparison.

On the bright side, my adventure and current state of car-less restlessness has brought me back to writing in this sadly neglected journal - I believe I got excited by the prospect of NaNoWriMo and the other journal I keep for my NaNo adventures and thus began to neglect this one, especially as I didn't have much exciting to write about ("Still no job... subbed today. Still no job, no subbing today, sat boringly around the house..."). Maybe I should consider combining the two?

Now that I've broken the long stretch of silence I must remember to update this journal more often. Perhaps I should put up a post about Burning Wheel, the newest roleplaying system to have won my interest...

ETA: I was just thinking of looking back at some of the tags in this entry to see other things that have had the same tags when the thought occurred to me - if something like this had happened as I had my permit or soon after I had gotten my license, I would have been sorely tempted to declare I was never going to drive again. At the moment, I'm thankful that Dad's driving Molly into the garage, when it's probably going to be running on just the battery (he assures me it will be able to get there even if the alternator doesn't charge the battery), but when Molly comes back I'll be glad to have a working car again and readily drive her the next day, whether to a sub job or just out somewhere.

Dog-sitting can be a fun adventure

Just got back on Friday from dog-sitting for a week, which was a lot of fun. The dog was tiny (our greyhound would have eaten him in one gulp - okay, maybe two - which is why I went and stayed at the house to dog-sit rather than him coming and chilling with our family), and he was also very well-behaved. Played a lot of fetch and tug-of-war with his squeaky toys.

The coolest part, though, was that the woman for whom I was dog-sitting has a canoe, and when I asked her whether she'd mind if Brian and I took it out on the lake she said that would be fine. So we went canoeing, and then we went camooning (our new word, meaning "canoeing by moonlight"). Camooning is amazingly serene and beautiful, especially the second day we did it, when we didn't start until a bit after eight. We found a little inlet sort of place that had a ton of fireflies in the trees and bushes, and sat and watched them for a while. And we saw heat lightning, which was a tiny bit scary but also very amazing and beautiful. We did not, however, get to meet the monster that lives in the lake which we kept joking about. But we did bring battery flashlight/lantern things which we affixed to sticks at the bow and stern, which made us feel like we looked like we knew what we were doing.

I'm also helping out with vacation bible school, my first time doing so, and it's kind of cool.

And I'm posting after a hiatus of I-don't-know-how-long, so this scattered bunch of thoughts and such will have to do for now, especially because supper is now ready. Oh, but I did start baking for the desert I'm bringing to a party tomorrow.
When I agreed to preach the sermon for next Sunday (well, I had a bit more notice than a week, but anyway) I thought it would be at least kind of easy. I mean, I've been listening to sermons for a while now, I've written plenty of papers in college, and I've gotten up to speak in front of people in any number of classes and even more as a student teacher.

But then there's the aspect of this being church, and so I don't want to get any theology wrong because it's the sermon I'm preaching, and I don't want to bore people or get them upset, but at the same time I don't want to just tell them what they already know, I want to say something, and I want to tie all the lessons together (well, I think I've kind of gotten that bit anyway). In my first draft, I had a decent introduction and a decent rest of the sermon, but they didn't mesh well enough, and I can't decide whether and how to bring the introduction into the rest of it or to get rid of the introduction and write a new one, and what to say in a new intro if I do it that way.

Still, I will get this thing written, and if any of my real life friends want to come and watch as I attempt to preach this Sunday coming up I can give you the info. Or should I start a Facebook event so that it's actually official ;-)

Let's see, what else has been going on in my life? Taking two in person and one online course at the moment, basically to stay on the health insurance (still no job, sigh). I won't go in to the doodle I passed around in tonight's class because I've got the picture of me at least pretending to be the good choir girl as my icon (hmm, no halo, maybe I should go back and add that in...). Finished the game of Baldur's Gate 2 my friend and I were playing on his X-box, so now we've got to decide if we're going to look for the original Baldur's Gate, or to see if the third one's out, or to go back and play again as two completely different characters. I've been replaying Ocarina of Time in my free time, as well as actually watching some TV (gasp!). I blame my brother, who got me into NCIS (and my mom as well, to a lesser extent). Can't think of too much else that's interesting at the moment.

Mar. 18th, 2009

It's been a long day today, part of which was getting home from class last night about 10:30 pm and having to get up at 5 am to get ready and go in to sub in a very crazy classroom, and part of which I will talk about under a cut because it's kind of sad.

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On a totally unrelated note, but something to hopefully lighten the mood a bit, during my computer class I got bored of listening to the same lecture for the whatever-number-it-was time, so I was looking at the news headlines on Firefox to see what kinds of technology news they might have (our professor is a news junky and that class had added a bit to his beginning of the class news readings that he welcomed any of us to bring in any technology-related news we found interesting). One of the articles mentioned a website called We Tell Stories, the premise of which is re-telling classic stories using various technologies, and which seems kinda cool. And through poking around I also learned about something called ARG - "Alternate Reality Game" - which I still don't quite "get" but which seems an interesting concept. Of course, I'm probably waaaay behind the times on this and probably everyone else who might read this and be interested has heard of it, but I'm used to being a little slow (or a lot slow, considering that a lot of the music I listen to was written well before this current century, or at least in a style popular well before this current century, but that's another story).

Anyway, that's enough babble for now. I'm getting sleepy and tired and stuff, which isn't surprising really, so I suppose I'd best stop typing this and go to bed or something.

Mar. 12th, 2009

So I'm probably giving a sermon on April 26, for "Passion and Purpose Sunday." I'm honored that our priest thought of me, but also kind of terrified. I haven't officially said that I'll do it yet, because she just asked me last night and it came as a total surprise to me, but I get the sense that it's something I should do. And hope that I don't make a total fool of myself in the process :-)

Unless, of course, you go with another definition of "total fool," or if I come up with something where making a total fool of myself actually supports the readings and accomplishes what a sermon should....
Thursday-Saturday I'm going to be in Wildwood, helping out with the Diocesan Convention, which should be a new and exciting experience. I've been to the Jersey shore once, briefly, to keep my mom company when she was dropping off my sister at Cape May for the diocesan youth choir camp (to which we basically forced her, practically kicking and screaming, to go - and now she can't wait for next year's). I love the ocean, but I'm not too big on crowds, or driving long distances, so unless I'm going with someone or have a purpose, I'm not likely to just go to the shore.

As for Chloe... we brought her back to the vet again, and it looks like her main problem is cancer near her digestive system. Which means we don't need to worry about Annie, which is a good thing. Chloe also got a couple shots at the vet, one to treat the minor infection she had and one of vitamin B (she was slightly anemic, and it helps with digestion). Since then, she's been coming out a bit more often and had a bit more of an appetite, though still not back up to full. But she seems happy enough, and that's what the vet told us to do - keep Chloe happy - so we'll do that, and see if she manages to gain some of her weight back.

So yeah, those are the two big things at the moment, and now I have to run off to work (I'm subbing at the preschool aftercare today).

Cats and Computers

At the moment there's two major things (besides the job thing) that I'm worried about - my laptop and Chloe, the cat who ended up being mine even though I didn't want a cat at first. I'll go into the story of the laptop first, mostly because it's more of an annoyance sort of thing and not as likely to upset people, and then I'll cut the part about my cat in case people don't want to see it.

As far as the laptop goes - today, all of a sudden, the screen went a bit darker and it showed that the laptop was not on AC power, even though the cord was plugged in. No matter what I did - readjusting the angle, plugging the cord into different outlets, turning off the computer - nothing seemed to make a connection. It's kind of what happened with my Dell, except that was more gradual and this was just poof, it's not working. I'd rather have gradual; that way I could've prepared. I need to figure out how to get it fixed, and how to afford it, and yeah.

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Let's see, something cheerful to end the entry on, something cheerful - ah, I know. My temperature was normal the last time I took it, so hopefully I'm finishing up being sick (my whole family had and has fevers and congestion). Oh, and Lily (my brother's greyhound) is curled up on the chair where I'm going to sit once I finish typing this on the family desktop, and she's very cute. No, I won't make her get up - I'll just make her share. Which she should do because I was sitting in that chair when she first got up on it, so there.

EDIT: Update on the laptop: Dad looked at it, played around with the cord and the port and his digital multimeter (DMM), and thinks that the problem is in cord right before where it plugs in to the laptop. Hopefully that's it, because there were replacements for sale on ebay and he bought one of those (as he has the ebay account and I don't, though I fully intend to pay him back for it). So yeah, fingers crossed that that fixes it and that's one less thing to worry about...

Pathfinder Classes

Originally, this started off as a comment in reply to the comment wolviepris made on my previous entry, where he asked about some of the basic differences I'd noticed in classes and equipment between Pathfinder and 3.5,. Since I hadn't really looked too closely, I started comparing the d20srd to the Pathfinder PDF, and quickly realized that my comments were getting to be much too long to fit in a single LJ comment box, if I remember the character limits. So I decided I had probably better make a whole new post about it.

Some of the basic differences I've noticed...Collapse )

Whew, I think that's plenty for a single LJ entry. Perhaps I'll take a look at spells and/or equipment next.



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